Windows 8 after a year: 21 hardware hits and misses

Windows 8 after a year: 21 hardware hits and misses

Summary: Over the past year, I've used Windows 8 (and Windows 8.1) on at least 20 different PCs in a broad range of form factors, ranging from a Vista-era desktop to an amazingly light Haswell-powered Ultrabook with a Gorilla Glass cover. Here's a quick tour of these devices, along with my lessons learned from each one.

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TOPICS: PCs, Windows 8
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  • The much-misunderstood Surface RT

    In my original review of the Surface RT, I concluded, "This is a product that will get better with age."

    That turned out to be exactly right. The Windows 8.1 Preview has breathed new life into this device, thanks to the presence of Outlook, a much-improved Music app, and a user interface that is noticeably snappier.

    As a result, I find myself picking up the Surface RT and happily using it more often these days than ever before. It lasted for an entire nine-hour Dallas-to-London flight a few weeks ago, as I did a little work and mostly listened to music and watched movies.

    If Microsoft had priced the original Surface RT differently and been less cocky about its sales potential, it wouldn't have had to take a huge writeoff. In that alternate universe, this very slim and well-built device might have been seen, properly, as a great first effort. Instead...

    At any rate, I'm looking forward to Surface 2 more than the Surface Pro 2. I can't be the only one.

  • HP's Envy X2: one of the first Windows 8 hybrids

    I first saw this hybrid back in September 2012, a month before Windows 8 was officially released. My first reaction when I picked it up was “Whoa. This thing is light.” And because it has one battery in the detachable base and another in the tablet portion, it got about 14 hours of use between charges in my testing.

    My original review noted:

    Overall, I had high expectations for the Envy X2. Maybe they were too high for the device itself to live up to. In use, the hardware limitations occasionally made themselves very noticeable, with tasks that would take seconds on a Core i5 or i7 dragging out. The limited RAM and storage exacerbated that feeling.

    A bigger problem with the Envy X2 is the same issue I felt with the Samsung. Because the system was designed, by necessity, with all of the electronics in the display, the unit feels top-heavy and slightly unbalanced when used on a lap.

    On a desk, the hinge mechanism lifts the base and keyboard to a nice angle for typing, and the weight is well balanced. But on the lap the display has a tendency to tip over backwards, leading to one inadvertent crash test on a carpeted floor. (The Envy X2 passed, thank goodness.)

     Read the original review here.

     

  • Dell's XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook thinks outside the clamshell

    This was another review unit. Here's the money quote from my original review:

    Make no mistake about it: This is a PC first, and a tablet second. At 1558 g (3.4 lb), your arms will tire if you try to hold this thing for too long. But it’s quite solid in your lap, and it’s perfect on an airplane tray table with the screen flipped to the back and tilted up to a comfortable viewing (and touching) angle. That’s great for watching a movie, reading documents, or doing light editing in coach seats where a full-size Ultrabook won’t open properly.

    Give Dell credit for creative thinking with this design, but the short battery life and 3.4-pound weight were offputting for me. Since then, Dell has refreshed this model with a 4th Generation Intel Core CPU, and I'd look at it again.

    Read the original review here.

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Topics: PCs, Windows 8

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  • What, no Yoga?

    Ed, you need to review the Lenovo Yoga or, better yet, wait for the Yoga 2. That thing looks sweet.
    FDanconia
    • Also I agree

      That as compelling as a Macbook Air or XPS 13 is I'm so used to touch on mobile platforms now - I didn't even consider them when I needed a new laptop. Actually I don't think I would consider a 15 or 17 inch laptop without a touchscreen - it's too darned useful.
      ethananim
    • Doesn't make any difference......

      Windows 8 is a big miss all around.
      linux for me
  • 21 Distinct Pages - No Way

    You're joking Ed, aren't you?
    TheCyberKnight
    • I don't control the platform, sorry

      I have expressed my sentiments to management about the gallery format and how much it can stand improvement. Meanwhile, each one of these pages has substantial content. This isn't just a bunch of pictures with brief captions. So I hope those who click through feel like they got their money's worth. (Oh yeah, it's still free!)
      Ed Bott
      • Ed you miss

        Lenovo Yoga and Asus Taichi. They are totally different from rest of the devices.
        Ram U
        • I didn't use them

          I should include a link to the main post for this gallery. With one exception this was only devices I personally used for a period of time. I never got review units of the Yoga or the Taiichi, although I played with both a little bit.
          Ed Bott
      • Good job

        I wouldn't click through many articles like this but it was worth it this time.

        I would be interested in your take on the Yoga particularly the 13.3 hi res Yoga 2.
        As far as the ThinkPad Yoga Pro goes I'd be concerned that the keyboard locking mechanism would fail rendering it useless. Make it as simple as possible but not simpler. A. E.

        The Lenovo Helix is also interesting but something bothers me about it and there's the high price too.

        I'm just about convinced that a Surface Pro 2 is going to find its way to my door but I'm hoping to learn a bit more about it from some thoughtful and in-depth reviews.
        greywolf7
        • I didn't really agree with Ed's assesment of the Surface Pro

          But I really, really agree with his assessment of the RT. I think it's an understated device with tons of potential. Looking forward to the RT2 or 3. If they could make a wacom digitizer work without unnecessary latency on a Surface RT3, I would ditch my gen 1 in a heartbeat and pay the premium to upgrade.
          ethananim
      • When I read zdnet now

        I right click and open in a new tab all the articles I want to read. When done I just close the tab. No backing out of twenty pages.
        calfee20
      • There are other options

        I've seen posts from other writers here that include the pictures inline as you scroll down the page.
        K B
      • Good and bad

        While I've had many complaints over the years about the gallery format, this is one of the few cases where I've seen it used effectively.

        On the other hand, I was hoping for content more along the lines of how W8 ran on these particular systems, not merely thumbnail reviews of the systems themselves. That lack, not the gallery format, is why I gave up after the 9th slide.
        CharlieSpencer
    • Horrible format

      Sorry, just can't handle all the clicking and adjusting, it takes too much attention from the article. From now on I will never read one of these dopey slide show articles. Change the format ZD, this one sucks.
      DKFlorida
  • Not clicking through

    Sorry.
    YaBaby
  • Ill Click through

    Because its Ed and he always has good content. Not like some of these other know nothing hacks that write on here.
    spikey289
  • Samsung Series 7 Slate

    is the tablet I use with Windows 8 (now with 8.1). This has been a great tablet, though I have docking stations at home and work, as well as one that travels with me. I like the amount of power it has. It was my replacement for a laptop that had its motherboard die.

    I am looking at the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro as possible upgrades or the Lenovo tablet. I like the Surface touch keyboard a lot, I used one at the Microsoft store.
    grayknight
  • Good article overall

    It is pretty interesting to see how different devices handle Windows 8. Even setting aside the slideshow (I find it hard to believe that CBSi would be completely ignorant of how annoying it can be), the article in general does a good job of showing how some older devices hold up under the new Windows.
    Third of Five
  • Where are the high end desktop replacement laptops?

    One of the things that I've noticed is that there is a dearth of high end desktop replacement laptops available these days. Currently, I've got a quad core 2nd generation i7 Asus laptop with a 15.6" non-touch 1080p screen, a DVD/BluRay, 8GB of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive. I got it back in early 2011. Recently, I've been looking to see if I could find a replacement with a touch screen and longer batter life. Slightly more compact or lighter would be nice too. I've haven't found anything that matches the specs of what I've got. The closest I've found is a Samsung Ativ Book 8, but it doesn't have an optical drive. Most of the i7 laptops out there today are dual, not quad, core. This past weekend, I went to the local Microsoft store to see what they had. I chatted with one of the employees and he said that what they were seeing was that manufacturers seem to be taking away features from laptops these days rather than adding them. Tablets and Ultrabooks are all fine and good for some things (I have a Surface Pro myself), but for doing real development work away from a dual screen desktop, you need a high end laptop. I hope someone notices this soon and does something about it.
    Sir Name
  • After a Year I was Surprised

    The only Windows 8 machine I have now is my Surface Pro.
    Everything else went back to Windows 7.

    Note: excluding the Surface, I did not buy any new pc's this year.
    rhonin